May 18, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT
While the Nationals await word of Gio Gonzalez’s enhanced MRI, hoping they aren’t about to lose yet another key player to a long-term injury, they’ve got a chance to win this weekend series against the Mets. They also could move into first place if the Braves lose again in St. Louis. So there’s plenty on the line this afternoon.
Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball, trying to bounce back from a less-than-spectacular start in Arizona last week. He’ll go up against Zack Wheeler, the hard-throwing Mets right-hander who has struggled himself this season (1-3, 4.53 ERA).
Two interesting lineup notes for the Nationals: 1) Wilson Ramos is behind the plate for the third straight day, the first time he’s done that this season, and 2) the slumping Danny Espinosa (5 for his last 47 with 20 strikeouts and zero walks) is on the bench for the first time in 12 games, with Kevin Frandsen getting a chance to start at second base instead.
It’s another beautiful day for baseball. Updates to come…
NEW YORK METS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly sunny, 65 degrees, Wind 9 mph LF to RF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
1B Tyler Moore
2B Kevin Frandsen
LF Nate McLouth
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LF Eric Young Jr.
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
1B Lucas Duda
CF Juan Lagares
SS Ruben Tejada
C Juan Centeno
RHP Zack Wheeler
HP Jon Byrne
1B Lance Barksdale
2B Dana DeMuth (cc)
3B Ed Hickox
1:37 p.m. — We are underway. Another big crowd on hand as Jordan Zimmermann fires strike one to Eric Young Jr.
1:45 p.m. — Wow, some major defense on display by the Nats in the top of the first. Tyler Moore made a spectacular diving catch of Young’s popped-up bunt, drawing oohs from the crowd. Then with two on and one out, Granderson hit a sharp grounder to first, Moore turned and threw to second for the forceout, then Desmond (realizing he wouldn’t be able to turn the 3-6-1 double play) instead threw to third base and caught Daniel Murphy having rounded the bag too far. Really heads-up play by Desmond there, ensuring a scoreless inning for Zimmermann.
1:53 p.m. — A 1-out walk by Anthony Rendon is all the Nats could muster in the bottom of the first against Zack Wheeler. Wilson Ramos wasn’t really happy with a called third strike by umpire Jon Byrne, who today becomes the first-ever Australian to be behind the plate for a big-league game. I believe Byrne told the upset Ramos to “take a bloody seat on the bench, mate!”
2:01 p.m. — Zimmermann got himself into a jam in the top of the second, with a man on third and one out. Matt Williams brought his infield in and the move paid off when Moore snagged a sharp grounder to first and was able to hold the runner at third base. But then Kevin Frandsen couldn’t quite get to Juan Centeno’s grounder through the right side of the infield, so the Nats are trailing 1-0 in the middle of the second.
2:11 p.m. — You know who is really heating up at the plate? Ian Desmond. He just crushed a bomb over the left-field bullpen to tie this game 1-1 in the bottom of the second. It’s Desmond’s second homer in as many days, his team-leading seventh of the season. And he’s now 8 for his last 23 with three homers and a triple. The Nats need this desperately from their Silver Slugger-winning shortstop.
2:20 p.m. — Given Espinosa’s struggles at the plate (5-for-47, 20 strikeouts, zero walks), his benching today certainly is understandable. But watching Frandsen at second base, you do appreciate just how good Danny is out there. And why, if he can just maintain something like a .240 batting average while drawing walks, he really is valuable to this team. No harm done in the top of the third, though, so it’s still 1-1.
2:33 p.m. — You know who else is starting to heat up at the plate? Wilson Ramos. He hasn’t had the results to show for it, but he has hit the ball much better the last few days. And he really hit it well just now, drilling a double to the wall in left-center to bring two runs home. So the Nats take a 3-1 lead on Ramos’ third and fourth RBI of the season.
2:52 p.m. — Zimmermann has settled into a nice groove. He has retired seven in a row and is through five innings on 74 pitches. The Mets have only a couple of hard-hit balls off him so far today, several of their actual hits have been grounders through the infield. It remains 3-1 after five.
3:06 p.m. — The Nats have had trouble this year delivering a knockout punch to an opposing pitcher on the ropes. They had another opportunity just now against Wheeler, loading the bases with nobody out in the fifth. They didn’t quite knock him to the ground, but Ramos did leave him staggering with a two-run single to left. Ramos now has four RBI today. But a popup by Werth and a 6-4-3 by Desmond didn’t help the cause. So it’s now 5-1 Nats as we move to the sixth. You get the sense it could be more.
3:19 p.m. — And the Mets get both runs right back against Zimmermann, who gave up three hits and a walk in the top of the sixth. If not for Centeno running himself into the third out, the damage might have been worse. So it’s 5-3 Nats now, this game still very much up for grabs as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
3:27 p.m. — That’s all for Zimmermann. It’ll be Drew Storen for the top of the seventh, protecting a 5-3 lead. Zimmermann’s final line: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 92 pitches, 59 strikes.
3:32 p.m. — And Storen retires the side with yet another 1-2-3 inning of relief. Opposing hitters are now 7-for-50 with one walk this season against Storen. He’s been nothing short of dominant.
3:49 p.m. — Rendon reaches for the fourth time today via his third walk. Then he steals second and takes third on an error. But the Nats can’t cash in, so it’s still 5-3 as Tyler Clippard enters for the eighth.
4:00 p.m. — A 1-2-3 eighth inning for Clippard, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14 outings. So the Nats are three Rafael Soriano outs away from a series victory. Still 5-3 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
4:15 p.m. — Nothing about it was pretty — a walk, a passed ball, a broken-bat single and a fielder’s choice — but the Nats added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. So it’s now 6-3 as Soriano enters for the ninth.
4:22 p.m. — That’ll do it. Soriano wraps up a 6-3 victory. The Nats take the series, improve to 23-20 and are for the moment tied with the Braves for first place in the NL East.
NL EAST STANDINGS
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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